Big Politics: The Fate of the State

Blog 7:

This week’s readings delved into the concept of new media in relation to politics and governance. Touching upon where the government may lie in the future, and how their prospective project plans are being influenced through media.

Lawrence Lessig (2010) examines the concept of transparency in relation to governance and politics; the idea of transparency in terms of a liberation of government information and data. He acknowledges that the public should have a more active engagement and knowledge of the government and their projects through the increased accessibility to this material. This notion of transparency in government behaviour, I believe, has become evident and more accessible to society in the last decade, as we see online news organisations such as The Guardian dedicating sections of their website to government data. Thus conveying how new media are changing the relationship between society and government. Even Lessig (2010, p.1) identifies this shift, describing what he calls the “naked transparency movement”, that is: “to liberate…government data so as to enable the public to process it and understand it better, or at least differently”.

In saying that, however, Lessig also credits that there are both positive and negative implications to this type of transparency. The negative lies in the idea that society’s trust in government may be lost due to how information may be misinterpreted by the media (this also ties with my blog on Data and Media- An unexpected Love Affair and how information can be translated incorrectly when data is transcribed).  As Lessig (2010, p.6) explains, the “systematic misunderstanding” can occur when necessary attention to detail is bypassed.  This can also been seen in the growth of political communication via social networking, where an emphasis on this form of communication has become evident in recent years. For example, after the Barack Obama election, Obama used Twitter as a means to gain a more “intimate” relation with the public, and at the same time to provide information in “bite-size” forms. But as Lessig (2010, p.2) points out, simply “listing and correlating data hardly qualifies as such a context” for neutralising misunderstanding. And thus, I believe, it must be asked whether such social media networking is the most appropriate manner in achieving transparency in government.

On the topic of social media, Bob Ellis (2010) highlights the notion of how we exist in a “24-hour news cycle”- in which he critically looks at the role that social media plays in politics. In essence, with the Obama example previously mentioned, it is evident that politicians use media as a way to communicate to society on a more personal, intimate landscape – as if the tweets, and Facebook updates are coming directly from the politician (which in most cases they are not). What also needs to be examined in this context as Paul Masson (2011) points out is that social media has authorised this same public with tools that allow them to “express themselves in a variety of situations ranging from parliamentary democracy to tyranny”. Therefore, these tools have given society new avenues of provoked thought and question on the role of their government.  An example of this is that given by Nikki Usher (2011)  – the Egyptian uprising in relationship to “media events”, where we see that Twitter and Facebook were used as a means to incite rebellion by allowing mass-communication and organisation. These media forms were also the first to initiate the distributing images and news regarding the uprising, which were then picked up by mainstream media coverage. It seems, that today the “media ecology now involves a complex interplay between social media, streaming Internet, and mainstream media – all working together to create a much larger, more nuanced picture of the live broadcasting of history”, (Usher 2011).

I found this topic quite intriguing and will defiantly examine the concept of new media in my final assignment as I will be looking at how such new media forms as augmented reality can, and have been used for political activism reasons as a means to create political awareness. Such examples include that which was used in the Occupy Wall Street events.

Word: Transversally

References:

Ellis, B 2010, ‘Sleepless in Canberra’ The ABC, Drum Unleashed, ABC, June 23, accessed 1 May 2013, <http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/35116.html>.

Lessig, L 2010, ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government,’ New Republic, October 9, accessed 30 April 2013, <http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0>.

Mason, P 2011, ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere’, Idle Scrawls BBC, 5 February, accessed 30 April 2013, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html>.

Usher, N 2011, ‘How Egypt’s uprising is helping redefine the idea of a “media event”’, The Nieman Lab, 8 Feburary, accessed 30 April 2013, <http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/how-egypts-uprising-is-helping-redefine-the-idea-of-a-media-event/>.

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